Summer Reading ~ S O S

After four weeks of what I described to a friend last night as ‘dossing’, it’s time that I turned my mind to some serious summer reading and I need help.

I have three projects in hand, four, I suppose, if I count the fact that next year’s Shakespeare syllabus is going to focus on what are commonly called The Problem Plays, namely Troilus and Cressida, All’s Well that Ends Well and Measure for Measure but I don’t really need to turn my thoughts in that direction until the beginning of September.  The other projects are more pressing.

One I can, at the moment, do very little about.  I’m signed up for a Summer Course delivered on-line on Science Fiction.  That begins in just over a week but I was told when I registered that I wouldn’t get any further information until seven days before it started, so until next Monday I’m stuck where that is concerned.  Once I get the details be sure I shall be back for further help.

However, my own Summer School, focused on literature set in India, is now only five weeks away and although it is not supposed to be in anyway academic I’d like to do some background reading just to support the other members of the group if it should become necessary to wander into more general discussion about the subject.

The three novels we are reading are Paul Scott’s Staying On, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust and Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey.  This isn’t an area of fiction that I’ve ever taught, so although I’ve read several other novels set in the same location and by similar writers, I haven’t had cause to look for any critical discussion relating to this area.  A brief glance through the publishers’ lists to which I would normally turn hasn’t shown up anything like the Beginner’s Guide that would be appropriate so I’m wondering if anyone out there knows of such a survey.  Don’t worry if you think it’s something that might be difficult to get hold of.  I have access to a major University library and might be able to borrow difficult to source books or articles that way.

Then in the Autumn I’m introducing a group to the Egyptian writer, Ahdaf Soueif, which is a bit of a cheek because I’ve only read her Booker short-listed novel The Map of Love myself.  However, I have heard her speak on the radio on several occasions since the onset of the Arab Spring and I want to explore her works further.  Committing myself to discussing her books with a group of accomplished readers is one certain way of ensuring I do that.  I have copies of her other novel, In the Eye of the Sun and her short story collections, Aisha and Sandpiper.  I also have her non-fiction discussion of the experience of living in Egypt over the last twelve months on order.  What I was wondering was whether any of you knew of articles or chapters in books that offered a critical perspective on her work.  Something, perhaps, that would enable me to place her in respect of other Arab authors exploring either similar or very different themes.

This is all very cheeky of me, but I hope you know I would be happy to help myself if any of you had requests in my own areas of expertise.  So, a big thank you in advance and I’d better get my head down and do some reading.


16 thoughts on “Summer Reading ~ S O S

    1. The latter, Stefanie. I’ve had a good mooch round the University library this afternoon and picked up a couple, ‘Writing India 1757-1990’ ed Bart Moore-Gilbert and ‘The Indian English Novel’ by Priyamvada Gopal but most of the books are coming from a very theoretical post-colonial standpoint which is going to be too academic for the group and for that matter for me. I’m a language expert and haven’t kept up with post-colonial theory.

  1. Do you have access to Gale at your university? If so, try the Literature Resource Center database. I just accessed it from our research resources, ( typed in Indian Literature under keyword, limited the search to articles published in the 20th and 21st centuries, and checked off topic & overview (as opposed to biography or literary criticism, although those would work, too). I came up with some articles that seemed quite good, and the first one I pulled up includes a nice bibliography to get you started. I don’t know if you can access it from the URL, but here it is, just in case:|H1119690000&&docId=GALE|H1119690000&docType=GALE&role=LitRC

    1. Naomi, that is so kind of you, thank you. I’ve checked and we don’t have Gale but I’m going to follow the same process with our equivalent and see what comes up. I’ll let you know how I get on.

      1. Did you try ours? Sometimes they ask for a library barcode, sometimes they don’t. When I did a query for you earlier this afternoon, it didn’t ask me, and I’m not at work. Here’s the path:, Research, Literature, Literature Resource Center Database.

        Good luck!

        1. Naomi, I tried your link but it needed a barcode. However, when I looked to see if our local library had anything similar I discovered something called the Literature Resource Centre and lo and behold it turned out to be our name for Gale. I am going to be able to play with this for hours. Thank you so much.

          1. Gale’s the aggregate, similar to Ebsco – it’s huge, containing thousands of databases. Literature Resource Centre is one of them. Glad you can get access.

    1. Kat, I’m doing it through a company called Coursera who started linking with well known Universities last year to offer some of their modules on line and for credit. Last year it was mostly in the IT field, which made sense as a way in, but this year they are trying a limited number of humanities courses as well, of which this is one. They are completely free and there would be time still to enrol. I’m going to do a full post about it next week.

      1. Alex, I went off to google Coursera – looks fantastic. I’m rather tempted by the American poetry course. I’ll look forward to your post.

  2. I would so love to help, but I confess this is not an area I have ever read much about. The only writer I know and trust for such matters is Edward Said, who is a heavyweight lit crit person, but much more accessible than most. (Spivak is another critic, but oh so Derridean, extremely hard work!). As for Soueif, you really need to talk to Rohan Maitzen at her blog Novel Readings. She was writing about her and would undoubtedly be able to give you the low-down on articles and such. And she’s a lovely woman who you’d really get on with anyway. She’s also very approachable and loves to share knowledge – tell her I sent you over! ( And good luck with your reading – it sounds wonderfully rich and varied.

  3. A few days ago I posted a long reply to this post, with information on some of the articles on Soueif I found doing my own research and links to my own work on her as well. If it got eaten somehow, let me know and I can send you the information in an email.

  4. Oh I wish I could be in your summer school reading those three books you’re teaching. I’ve just finished hosting a group read on my blog, a slow read of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. It took us four months to decipher and savour the whole book. I’d like to continue with more. I’ve got Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s Heat and Dust and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance in my TBR box. I haven’t heard of Scott. Will you be blogging about your course? I look forward to your discussions.

    1. Yes, Arti there will almost certainly be posts about each discussion. I did think about putting ‘Midnight’s Children’ in to complement ‘Staying On’ because both are related to independence but the Scott looks at it from the point of view of the British who decided to stay in India, hence the title. However, part of the point of the Summer School is to read novels that are new to the group but not too taxing and the Rushdie wouldn’t really have fit that brief. You might know of Scott from his quartet, ‘Jewel in the Crown’. If you haven’t read that then you should start there. I read ‘A Fine Balance’ with one of my other groups two years age. It is magnificent.

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